Master Swimming Instructors: Keep Your Voice, Let the Others Go Hoarse! Part One

by Pool Builders on 08-10-2011 in Articles

Today, I am going to talk about a swimming instructor's voice. As many swimming professionals' careers are cut short because of over use injuries of the vocal chords. It is rare to find someone in our beloved aquatic industry that has lasted 10, 20 or 30 years on pool deck. We have some; "masters" of our profession that we need to model and I will guarantee each and every one of them has followed successful strategies for avoiding vocal abuse.

Often working outdoors, cooling off in the pool, getting a tan and instructing and enjoying your student's company looks very appealing to outsiders but make no mistake, swimming teaching & swim coaching is a very stressful job and places enormous stresses on your body, particularly your voice and skin. You may be lucky enough to have a senior swimming teacher or manager mentoring you, with tips to saving your voice however I was not so lucky; I had my first throat operation at the tender age of 34, whilst I was working as a swimming and aquatic instructor and literally was off work recuperating for over 12 months .

"Typical educator overuse" I was told by the specialist. I had the vocal chords of a sixty year old and was given a huge wake up call. Change you behavior or risk having no voice at all by the time I was forty. So my journey to nurturing the old vocal chords begun. I would like to share with all swimming and aquatic educators the Do's and Don't's.

Now you might be thinking, my voice is OK, so I would like you to honestly answer the following questions, tally up your yes answers.

Let me ask you to quickly fill in this survey?

Do you talk for prolonged periods on the phone?

Do you talk very fast and often forget to breathe?

Do you work in a noisy environment? Do you have to raise your voice to be heard?

Do you smoke, drink excessive amounts of alcohol?

Do you drink sugary drinks like Coke or Fanta?

Do you sometimes forget to drink during your swimming classes?

Do you sing and use varying tonality during your classes?

Do you find yourself whispering or repeatedly clearing your throat, when your throat is sore?

Do you raise your voice and vary your voice tones when you are angry?

Do you find your neck and shoulders tense at the end of the day?

Here' s the thing, as a swimming teacher or aquatics educator if you have answered yes more than 3 times, then you may be at risk of suffering from voice abuse in the future.

Now, I could certainly tell you rest, relaxation, yoga, a healthy diet and lifestyle and continuing to drink lots of water will help, but as swim teachers, these are covered in our basic training. I now, even advise all swimming teachers and coaches to having singing lessons, as part of their personal and professional development. It's interesting how many of us do not use our diaphragms correctly when we speak.

In part two, we will focus on what you can do whilst continuing on swimming teaching and operating at work. If you know other swimming professionals, who could use this knowledge, please, with my blessing, pass it on. Who knows wouldn't it be wonderful to have more "masters swim teachers out there, with their voices intact" over the next few years.

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